Jack Whitver

The 2018 Iowa legislative session is entering its 12th week, but Republican lawmakers who control the debate agenda in the House and Senate have not yet revealed a final tax-cutting plan.

There have been no public hints about the size of their state spending plan for next year either. Senate Republican Leader Jack Whitver of Ankeny says there are other priority issues, but those are the two biggest.

“It’s all intertwined,” he told reporters late last week. “We have to come to an agreement on what that tax plan will look like at the same time, probably, that we’re setting our budget targets.”

Whitver indicated Senate Republicans will also meet in private this week to decide whether to advance legislation that would use public money to cover private school tuition.

Trish Wilger, executive director of Iowa Advocates for Choice in Education, says putting state tax money in an “educational savings account” would let parents choose the school that best fits their child.

“This doesn’t have to be an us-versus-them issue,” Wilger said last week. “It’s about offering parents access to a variety of the high quality options that are out there.”

Opponents say the $4,000 “vouchers” would divert taxpayer money to religious schools and would hurt public schools.

“If we are able to find such resources, I would strongly advocate that those resources be designated to benefit the nearly half million public school students,” Melissa Peterson of the Iowa State Education Association says.

In February, Republicans in the Iowa House tabled a plan that would have given the parents of a new private school student $5,000 in state tax money to cover tuition and other expenses.